The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

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The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Eldorion on Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:56 pm

Remember this scene?



It's bullshit.

I was talking with Norc about questions my brother had when reading LOTR for the first time, and we got on the topic of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli's pursuit of the Uruk-hai who captured Merry and Pippin.  The initial topic was Aragorn and Eomer's conversation on the morning when they meet near Fangorn.

TTT, The Riders of Rohan wrote:"It is now the fourth day since he was slain," answered Aragorn; "and since the evening of that day we have journeyed from the shadow of Tol Brandir."

"On foot?" cried Eomer.

"Yes, even as you see us."

Wide wonder came into Eomer's eyes.  "Strider is too poor a name, son of Arathorn," he said.  "Wingfoot I name you.  This deed of the three friends shall be sung in many a hall.  Forty leagues and five you have measured ere the fourth day is ended!  Hardy is the race of Elendil!"

According to the Tale of Years (found in ROTK, Appendix B) the three hunters began their pursuit of the Uruk-hai on the evening of February 26, and they met Eomer on February 30 (yes, February has 30 days in Middle-earth; it uses a different calendar even though Tolkien substituted in our month names).  The time of day at which they meet Eomer is not explicitly stated but it follows the company watching a sunrise, so let's say it's about three and a half days total.  The distance they traveled was 45 leagues, or 135 miles (cf. Unfinished Tales, Disaster of the Gladden Fields for conversion information), or 216 km.  216/3.5 = about 62 km per day.

However, despite Gimli's statement in the film, they did not run constantly with no food or rest.  Aragorn determined that it was to risky to follow the trail at night, so they ran only during the daylight hours.  How much daylight did they have?  We need to know their latitude for that.  For reference purposes, Hobbiton is assumed to be equivalent to Oxford on our Earth (cf. the Letters).  As best as I can figure based on the maps in Karen Wynn Fonstad's The Atlas of Middle-earth and some convenient pieces of paper, the path of the Three Hunters' pursuit was roughly 500 miles south of Hobbiton.  It is an easily accessible fact that there are about 69 miles in a degree of latitude and that Oxford is located 51.45, so...

500/69 = 7.25
51.45-7.25 = 44.2

Which puts their path at about the same latitude as northern Italy (reference).  According to this tool from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the 44.2 line of latitude receives about 11 hours of sunlight on March 1 (rounding here).  So the Three Hunters had 11 hours to run 62 km, which is the equivalent of about one and a half marathons (42 km), three and a half days in a row.

Were they to walk non-stop during daylight hours, the Three Hunters would have traveled at a rate of 5.6 km/hr (62/11-5.6), which is only slightly more than the typical walking speed of an average adult.  We are told in the chapter "The Riders of Rohan" that "[o]nly twice in the day's march had they [the trio] rested for a brief while" before dusk on the first full day.  It's implied that they did not rest at all during the daylight hours on the second full day.  There are a few statements that they "ran", but there's no way to square that with the idea that the company took only minimal rests during the day.

TL;DR: Either the Three Hunters were walking at a slightly faster than average pace the whole time, or they took a couple hours worth of breaks during each day of the march.  The former is clearly easier to square with the text than the latter.  Ergo, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli's epic march across Rohan was conducted at only slightly faster than the pace of your average afternoon stroll.

Full credit goes to Norc as a coauthor and researcher on this post, as well as to my brother (not a member of this forum) for inspiring us to start thinking about Rohan and distances in the first place. study


Last edited by Eldorion on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:12 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:11 am

great work!!! very well written, our rambling and calculations put together to make sense Very Happy science man, science Very Happy


so the epic run, day out and in, was merely jogging Laughing i love this.

and to think we pulled this off with the metric system vs. the sucker-system and that british system Laughing

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:16 am

I think you've calculated the daylight hours wrong for the time of year, and I think you have placed them for the start of the run to far south.

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Bluebottle on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:17 am

Also it presupposes that Middle Earth and Earth share conditions with regards to daylight and so on, doesn't it? It is the easiest model for comparison, but still.

And the terrain would have played a role. If the country they were travelling through were of such a sort that they didn't risk travelling at night, that would have slowed them down as well.

Though all very interesting.  Nod

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Eldorion on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:17 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:I think you've calculated the daylight hours wrong for the time of year, and I think you have placed them for the start of the run to far south.

Goddammit Petty I spent over an hour on this thing all told. You've gotta be more specific than that. Mad
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Mrs Figg on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:19 am

theres hope for me yet, this means I too can go on an epic Quest..whatever..thing.  cheers 
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Bluebottle on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:20 am

Trust you to capture the gist of it, Figg.  Very Happy 

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Eldorion on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:21 am

Bluebottle wrote:Also it presupposes that Middle Earth and Earth share conditions with regards to daylight and so on, doesn't it? It is the easiest model for comparison, but still.

Tolkien was very clear in the Letters that Middle-earth was just our world in the distant, fictional past. He tried to get things like weather and even the phases of the Moon accurate (though for the Moon he used a calendar from 1942 or so instead of trying to extrapolate back thousands of years). The Hobbiton = Oxford connection is probably the iffiest part of the whole calculation, but it is IMO a necessary one if we want to follow in Tolkien's footsteps by applying real world scientific knowledge to Middle-earth.

And the terrain would have played a role. If the country they were travelling through were of such a sort that they didn't risk travelling at night, that would have slowed them down as well.

This is a good point. They did start off in the Emyn Muil (mountains or at least large hills) for the the first day or so, and they were travelling across the Wold, which was more sloped than most of Rohan (though they'd be on a downhill for part of that). But I appreciate you bringing this up. Smile

Though all very interesting.  Nod

Thanks, I'm glad other people find it interesting in addition to Norc and I. Very Happy
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:24 am

Eldorion wrote:
Pettytyrant101 wrote:I think you've calculated the daylight hours wrong for the time of year, and I think you have placed them for the start of the run to far south.

Goddammit Petty I spent over an hour on this thing all told.  You've gotta be more specific than that. Mad
we.

but Blue has a point (and i did too) about vegetations, they did have to take some turns away from the "stragith-path" because of the river, and Eomer clearly speaks like "as the bird flies"

though i don't think the daylight issue is that much of a problem,so far south,it doesn't divert as much, perhaps an hour.

edit:and the reason they didn't hunt during the night was because they were afraid they'd loose the track.

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Bluebottle on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:29 am

The thing is about that part too is that in the movie it's all rocks and ravines. Not really hors riding country, and certainly not the green lush grassland of the books.

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Eldorion on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:30 am

I just threw the movie clip in there for reference, but we were using the book exclusively as our source.

I certainly don't complain about PJ making the chase more dramatic, though I think the idea that they took no breaks whatsoever is dumb. And the rocks look cool but as you note, they don't make sense for horse country.
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:30 am

"Blue has a point (and i did too) about vegetations, they did have to take some turns away from the "stragith-path" because of the river, and Eomer clearly speaks like "as the bird flies"- Norc


And Aragorn may have to go slowly occasionally to hunt for the track or to keep an eye for clues.
And Gimli, whilst resilient still has short legs.

And 11 hours of daylight does not equate to 11 usable hours of daylight, even taking the weather out of it (but we shouldn't and worth checking if Tolkien makes mention of it, Im sure he does) you have an hour or so of poor light either end of the day where following the trail may have slowed them.
And lastly you have Aragorn lamenting there weariness because of the will of Saruman set against them
So Eomer might be impressed but Aragorrn isn't.
And Eomer might be impressed but he really doesnt have a clue how long it should take to cover that distance, as he rides everywhere, but it sounded impressive.


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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:31 am

yes, as Eldo says, Middle Earth isn't a Utopia or a parallell world or a fantasy univers, it is our world, just set in a mythical past (i had this in my presentation as one of the main points as to why it was a modernistic story, not just fantasy Nod )

also, back to terrain. they would have had some difficulties descending from the mountains, but again downhill, but once they reached the borders of Rohan, quite early on i think, maybe the second they (after the evening they left) it is just grass, so it goes faster. though i do remember it saying it was harder to track the orcs or something, so it went slower. i might have to dig out my copy and read those chapters again (it is one of my favourite bits).

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:32 am

Bluebottle wrote:The thing is about that part too is that in the movie it's all rocks and ravines. Not really hors riding country, and certainly not the green lush grassland of the books.
have u learned nothing Rolling Eyes fuck the movies in this matter Razz we working with the canon material here Nod
(but also, horses can avoid huge stones...)


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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Radaghast on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:32 am

Why didn't they just take Eagles?

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:35 am

u have some good points there petty, but again, i have to read those pages again, i do remember it being said they were slowed down because of tracks and saruman and what not, but i have to check how much and all that.

raddy, that is just the question that would get you killed in forumshire.

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Eldorion on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:35 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:And 11 hours of daylight does not equate to 11 usable hours of daylight, even taking the weather out of it (but we shouldn't and worth checking if Tolkien makes mention of it, Im sure he does) you have an hour or so of poor light either end of the day where following the trail may have slowed them.

The chapter on the hunt has some fairly detailed descriptions of what they did and when they did it, but I'm too lazy to find and type them up now. Razz

So Eomer might be impressed but Aragorrn isn't.
And Eomer might be impressed but he really doesnt have a clue how long it should take to cover that distance, as he rides everywhere, but it sounded impressive.

This is a really good point actually.
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Bluebottle on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:36 am

I was just pointing it out. Laughing I even poiinted it out as different too the books, as it can be a bit confusing as in for the genereal landscape on the route.

And, yes, Tolkien was very clear on the point that he wanted his work to be a founding myth for England. Inspired not a little by the Norse creation myth in Snorre. Tolkien felt it was a shame England didn't have something similar.

And there's all kinds of stones in that scene.

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:41 am

Eldorion wrote:

So Eomer might be impressed but Aragorrn isn't.
And Eomer might be impressed but he really doesnt have a clue how long it should take to cover that distance, as he rides everywhere, but it sounded impressive.

This is a really good point actually.
yes, yes it is.

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Mrs Figg on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:44 am

when they got onto the plains of Rohan on the lush grasslands, it would have been good running territory surely?
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Bluebottle on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:45 am

Norc wrote:
Eldorion wrote:

So Eomer might be impressed but Aragorrn isn't.
And Eomer might be impressed but he really doesnt have a clue how long it should take to cover that distance, as he rides everywhere, but it sounded impressive.

This is a really good point actually.
yes, yes it is.

And he would have been nothing but dissapointed that they didn't catch the orcs in time.

So he would certainly not have been happy about their speed.

(2500 is kind of a round number, isn't it? Very Happy )

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by David H on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:49 am

I love it! cheers 

I can only add that I know from experience that it's possible to hike 50miles from dawn till dark on mountain trails with light camping gear, then get up at dawn and hike back to the car before it was too dark to see. (I'd sometimes do shit like this when I was in my 20's, inspired by LotR and other books.)
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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:50 am

when they got onto the plains of Rohan on the lush grasslands, it would have been good running territory surely? - Mrs Figg

That depends how tall the grass is, pretty tall, because the orcs slash and cut it down, and seem to do so in a wide spread as they go, so the question is more how easy would it be to run over long grass that has been cut down and is lying all over the trail you are following?

Congrats on your post count Blue!!  Shocked {{How quickly they get up their post counts!}}


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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:50 am

this is the most epic research i have ever done and it keeps getting better
but we're talking about running 1 and a half marathon a day.

(but srsly, it's lategoodnight)

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Re: The Three Hunters ... more like the Three Strollers, amirite?

Post by Norc on Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:53 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:when they got onto the plains of Rohan on the lush grasslands, it would have been good running territory surely? - Mrs Figg

That depends how tall the grass is, pretty tall, because the orcs slash and cut it down, and seem to do so in a wide spread as they go, so the question is more how easy would it be to run over long grass that has been cut down and is lying all over the trail you are following?
pretty easy. the track was easier to follow and the path was made for them. (and i am not starting on the fact that i don't think horses eat waist-high grass or that grass would be waist high if they were living there, tramping and eating). i remember now, their pace quickened once they reached rohan, they had been struggling a bit getting down, finding the past, i think at one point they had to turn around. and also the river.

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